(Image is of a map of the 2016 US Presidential Election results displaying D. Trump winning more Electoral College votes and H. Clinton winning more of the popular vote. Photo credit: CNN)
A month ago on Election Day, my country, the United States of America, broke my heart.
Actually, that’s not true. It more than broke my heart. It spat on it, stomped on it, kicked it, punched it, defecated on it, and burned it. In the process of doing all of that, the heart became broken.
I posted the following on social media when the tally appeared that DJT was in the lead:
“When I was young my motto was to never have hope and to never have high expectations. Because experience had shown me that life is full of hurt, of problems, of injustice.
Being hopeful, being optimistic…all that did was cause you to set yourself up for failure and crushing disappointment.
I knew I should never expect anything good. That way when bad things happened – as they nearly often did – I wouldn’t be shaken by it. I’d be prepared. And if for some reason something good happened, I could enjoy being pleasantly surprised by the change of events.
I was a smart kid. I’m clearly not that smart as an adult.
I am sitting here, a grown-A woman, practically in tears in my living room. My mind is racing and my stomach is in knots. I really, truly convinced myself that things were going to be different. The election results are proving me wrong. I allowed myself to hope…and now I am experiencing what happens to people who dare to hope when everything you know should have advised you otherwise.
I am shaken. This man actually has a fighting chance to be my president. Of the United States. What type of world do we live in?
Even if she wins, the fact that it is this close speaks libraries – not volumes. The fact that this many people truly identified with the vitriol that comes out of this man’s mouth and want him to lead our country. That tells me exactly how they feel, and think, about people like me.
I am shaken to the core and I have myself to blame…because I KNEW better. I knew better. I have lived in this skin my entire life; I know the deal. But I guess I thought things were changing.
If he wins, I will respect his role as president – UNLIKE the way people have blatantly disrespected President Obama for eight years. I will not disrespect the man. But I’m not going to act like I’m happy. Like I’m not overwhelmed with fear. Like I’m not disgusted by the people who silently think the way he does about people like my family.
It’s good that I couldn’t eat my dinner because I think I’m going to be nauseous.
I don’t even know what to say. Dear God. You say you are with us when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But what if we can’t walk through it? What if we collapse in the middle of it and can’t go any further?”
And later I posted:
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the ‘good’ people.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who clearly foresaw how many of y’all would betray my kids in the 2016 election by voting for a demagogue.”
After he won, I posted this:
“Y’all are that scared of electing a woman? She’s not even black…she’s one of you!
So I’ve read DJT’s platform thoroughly. And apparently millions of people voted for him. Maybe they can explain some things to me.
Explain to me where the reassurance is that my black teenage sons, one of whom is old enough to get a driving permit, won’t be “stopped and frisked” because they look like “thugs?”
Explain to me, a woman who lives in a state that borders Mexico, about this wall you plan to erect in my state?
Explain to me how I should be relieved that refugees – like my children – and immigrants – like my parents – will be blocked from coming here?
Explain to me how you are going to repeal Obamacare and therefore families like mine who have numerous members with pre-existing conditions including cancer, ALS, HIV, and more, will be able to have adequate care?
Explain to me, a professor who teaches a number of low-income students, many of whom are former military, students of color, and non-traditional students, about the illustrious education plan?
Explain to me, an autistic woman with a house full of disabled children, why it’s funny to mock disabled people publicly?
Explain to me, a Christian whose entire paternal side of the family is Muslim, about how you think they are all potential terrorists?
Explain to me, a person with an undergraduate degree in International Relations, why you think a return to an isolationist policy will be beneficial for this country?
Explain to me, a woman, rape survivor, and mother of GIRLS, about how it’s acceptable to “joke” about sexual assault?
Explain to me, “Religious Right,” how this man exemplifies Christ in ANY way? In ANY WAY at ALL?
Oh, yeah. He is supposedly “pro-life” now…so therefore he’s “the man.” What about MY kids’ lives? What about MY life? He is not pro-OUR lives. Not from anything I’ve seen.
I’m going to be walking around looking and looking at you all. Wondering which one of you sold me out and sold my family out.
I’ve seen everything I need to see about the leader DJT will be. Like Maya Angelou said, he already showed me the first time. But I hope I’m wrong. Dear God, I hope I’m wrong.”
The election results hurt. They really, really hurt. However, in the midst of all of that pain, I made what I thought was a life-changing discovery, and it helped soothe me. Helped me feel better. Helped me feel less defeated. I discovered I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. The seeds of this discovery had been planted before the election results…back when a friend of mine added me to a “secret” Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation (and E.G., I never got a chance to thank you for looking out for me; it was very sweet of you and I appreciate it so much).
(Photo credit: PSN’s Zazzle Store)
I know you’re probably rolling your eyes now that I have mentioned Pantsuit Nation, but please don’t; hear me out. This was before Pantsuit Nation became a huge cliche. Before it decided to become a repository of “stories” and before it was a group nearly the size of the city of San Antonio. Before it had been featured on CNN, the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, etc. Back then, it was just a simple Facebook group. It was engaging. It was grassroots. It was diverse – in practically every sense of the word. It was inclusive. It was supportive. It was a place of hope in the period before the election, when thousands poured their hearts out to one another in the spirit of community, of compassion, of love and tolerance.
And after the election, it served a place of collective healing and support. Its members clung to one another. We grieved openly together. We attempted to process the unfathomable. We lifted one another up. And we used the foundation that had been developed in our growing group to began to mobilize, strategize, organize, resist. Reeling from the devastating results, we decided that we needed to channel our emotions into actions. We decided that while we recognized that this was a time to lament, for many it was also a time to act. That we couldn’t let this be the final say.
Like-minded state and local groups sprang up everywhere. In addition, the group began gaining more and more media attention, and more and more members. Whereas before it was relatively easy to navigate the group, now it become a large, unwieldy, nearly overwhelming monstrosity. People joined by the thousands. The group doubled, then tripled, then quadrupled in size within a dizzyingly swift amount of time. Our secret group was no longer a secret.
Most of us welcomed the growth and the newcomers. Strength in numbers! we thought. Exciting that there were so many like-minded people around that we hadn’t been aware of! More hands and resources that could be used to take action! The possibilities seemed endless. While some might have wistfully remarked that they missed the cohesiveness of our smaller group, many people, myself included, thought that the group’s expansion was an overall positive thing, and welcomed it.
I joined my state and local group while remaining a part of the national group. And I busied myself with thoughts and plans. I used these ideas and this activity to heal my bruised heart from the blows of the election results. I figured if I was going to be in a fight, at least I had my Pantsuit Nation warriors by my side! I comforted myself that even though the election had uncovered a lot of the nation’s bigotry and discontent that had clearly been there all along, it had also helped me to discover more of “my people.” Individuals who were committed to real change; who cared about human rights; who cared about our nation. It had revealed, so I thought, a whole community of “Nasty Women” and “Bad Hombres,” of true allies, of intersectional feminists, of liberal Christians, of generally “woke” and open-minded, open-hearted people.
Yes, in hindsight I recognize how naive, idealistic, and silly this all sounds. But 1) for the most part it (what I stated above) actually felt that way to me, and 2) you need to understand how much I needed to have hope in something at that time. How much I wanted to focus on the positive. How much I wanted to trust people again and not believe all of the country was hateful toward people like me. So I swallowed the whole ideology. I knew it was imperfect; could already see cracks in the veneer. But I viewed those as natural imperfections that were signs that we still had growing to do; I didn’t perceive them as signs of intrinsic/structural weakness. Silly, yes, I know now.
I had taken a few days to cry and scream, and now I needed to do something to process my emotions. I didn’t know how else to. So I bought it, or should I say, bought into it. The whole thing. Internalized it all. Went all in.
I could see there were issues. I noticed the whitesplaining, the growing microaggressions, the tone-policing, the ableist vocabulary, the instances of gay and trans relatives, including minors, being outed in people’s declarations of allyship. But these people seemed to be in the minority, and when it occurred, people called it out. So I took a “benefit of the doubt” approach and assumed these were just “growing pains.”
I had mixed feelings about the march that was planned for Inaugural Weekend. There were many, many issues. But I was still planning to go.
(Image of the ORIGINAL Million Woman March in 1997, led by WOC)
(Then they changed their name and their image to MLK’s march… not this image, though.)
(Finally they settled on this – with the blessing of the King family . Photo credit: Patch dot com)
Several friends and I conferred with one another over how we could use our influence to make the group more inclusive. We resurrected the Families for Justice executive board determined to center POC, disabled, queer, immigrant, Muslim, and youth voices. We had done it before – we were instrumental in coordinating the 2015 Million Moms March on Washington in collaboration with Mothers for Justice United. We knew we could do it again, and though there were many more “hands in the pot” than we were accustomed to, we knew we could make things happen.
(Our intersectional march on Washington to protest police brutality against POC, last year)
Tonight, as I read several disturbing threads on the PSN national group containing thousands of hurtful, whitesplaining comments that disrespected and minimized my identity as a black disabled woman (and that of other marginalized groups in PSN, POC in particular), my short-lived bubble of naivete was savagely popped. And for the second month in a row, my heart was broken. Last month it was by Americans who elected a bigoted, unqualified demagogue as our nation’s president. Tonight, however, it was broken by (numerous) members of the group that billed itself as a “safe space” – Pantsuit Nation. But really, Pantsuit Nation is just a reflection of a greater problem. That problem that is white feminism.
(Photo credit the Don’t BS Yourself blog)
White feminism has always been problematic. The suffragettes, for example, were in some ways amazing women and trailblazers. But they were also classist, ableist, and racist.
(Photo credit: Kate Beaton)
And their great-granddaughters, modern white feminists, have inherited that problematic legacy too. Not every one of them chooses to be part of the problem, of course. Several are working hard to transform things and make them better, although sadly they aren’t the majority. However, I am fortunate to call many white women not only my friends, but truly my sisters. They have my back – and I hope they know I have theirs. I know that we have powerful, affirming, supportive white women warriors who are in the trenches working to make things better. Women who amplify the voices of marginalized groups; who stand beside (and when needed, behind) others; women who call out privilege when they encounter it; women who work to educate others. Women whose allyship is not an adjective but an action verb. And while of course there are feminists who aren’t women (i.e. men, nonbinary individuals, etc) who are committed to and intricately involved in this work also, I am focusing on women in this post because feminism (at least Western feminism anyway) is typically associated with them.
Tonight it became clear to me that there isn’t really a whole lot of difference between our so-called “allies” and those who are not. At first glance, the difference seems to be massive. But they are just two sides of the same coin. One is overt; the other is covert. But the same disregard for the voices of people with multiple marginalizations, the same tokenization, the same gaslighting, the same erasure, the same generalizations exist in both groups. Only one is more subtle and masks itself in pretty but hollow seemingly progressive words and deeds in an effort to cloak the putrid stench of its bias even from those who are emitting it.
(Photo credit: Aya de Leon)
My girls had my back today. They looked out for me. But the damage is done. The exchange stripped off the linens with which I’d used to psychologically mummify my heart after the election. Left unguarded, the realization – that white feminism has no regard, no respect, and no place for not only me, but the people and communities I care about – hurt me. More specifically, broke me. Broke my heart.
(Photo credit: Thank Her For Surviving blog)
It was my fault that it was broken, though. At least in part. Because I should have protected my heart. I should have had the emotional equivalent of TASP, PrEP, spermicide, a diaphragm, birth control pills, an IUD, latex Trojans, and the Reality female condom – all of those combined – to protect my heart. Instead I left my heart wide open and unguarded in a misguided, Pollyanna-esque attempt at “sisterhood and community.”
I let the white feminists of America Trumple trample all over my heart – “naked head.” I let them upset me, anger me, sadden me. I let them disappoint me; I let them provoke me to sarcasm and snarkiness; I let them cause tears to form. I bear some responsibility because I should have never believed. I should have never let them in. I should have known it was coming.
I should have known better. Because I’ve been here before. Not exactly “here” per se, but enough to recognize the pattern.
Vague? I know. The best way I can explain my culpability is to tell you a story. My story.
Years ago I was blessed with My Boaz, My Mandingo Warrior, My Knight In Shining Armor, My Life Partner, My Best Friend (these are only some of the nicknames I have for him…I also call him the perfect Steven to my Connie [SU fans will feel me on that]).
(Image of Steven and Connie from Steven Universe. Photo credit: SU Wiki)
But before that, my heart belonged to someone else. Thank God that is a part of my past, not at all indicative of the way things are for me today. But it was a significant part of my life for a long time, even though I seldom discuss it now. It was my life for many years – many. All my old friends who were around back then lived through it with me.
How do I describe that period of my life? I was so lost, and didn’t even know it. Maybe a roller coaster is a suitable analogy? Because it was like being on a never-ending ride. Ups, downs. Twists, turns. Flipping upside down, and back up, and then down again. Slow, then fast, then even faster. You love it and hate it at the same time. You enjoy it, but it also makes you feel scared and nauseous. Yes, a roller coaster fits that period; it was like a powerful, intense, intoxicating ride. One that nearly killed my soul and my sense of self-worth. One that was emotionally unhealthy. Toxic. Depleting. Demoralizing. Unfaithful. A ride I should have gotten off of much earlier than I did, but I was too caught up.
(Photo credit: Eat More Cake website)
It didn’t start off that way, though. Like most young love, it was sweet and innocent once. Then it got corrupted. But I couldn’t didn’t let go. I hung on. Out of codependency. Out of loyalty. Out of attachment. Out of having more love for him than myself. Out of nostalgia. Out of hope things would change for the better, or at least go back the way they once were. There was no meaningful assurance that any of that would realistically happen, but that didn’t stop me from hoping for it, wanting it, wishing for it, waiting for it.
It HAD to get better. It just had to. I had dropped out of college for this man. Spurned the advances of many a good man who would have treated me well because I was committed to the one I was smitten by. Against the pleadings and advice of my family and friends, I stayed.
When he cheated? I stayed.
When he lied? I stayed.
When he spent our bill and rent money on alcohol, weed, and pills? I stayed.
When he quit job after job because he didn’t like being told “what to do,” I stayed.
When he belittled me for my blackness – my wide nose, my full lips, my dark skin, my coily hair – I stayed.
When he conceived a child with another woman while we were together? I stayed.
When he left me stranded in southern California so he could hook up with some other chick in another state, I stayed.
When he slapped me across the face in front of his entire family, I stayed.
When he pushed me and shook me and punched me (“…but not that hard,” he claimed, “Stop being dramatic. I softened that punch with a pillow; it couldn’t have hurt that much. I could have just hit you directly in your face, you know, but I didn’t…”), I stayed.
When his baby mama chased my car down on the freeway because he was two timing both of us, I stayed.
When he filled a huge stew pot full of freezing water and dumped it on me in the front lawn in front of the neighbors because he thought I was seeing someone else, I stayed.
When he came up to my job and humiliated me in front of my employees by (falsely) accusing me of cheating with one of my colleagues, I stayed.
Now don’t get me wrong. I fought back. Yelled. Cried. Pleaded. Threatened. Had a revenge affair once. Cursed. Packed my bags and left. But it never lasted. Somehow I ended up back, buying the empty promises and the rhetoric he fed me. I guess we both chose to believe his lies.
(#Truth Photo credit: Twitter)
Because I remembered the person who woke me up on Christmas Day years ago with flowers and my favorite book.
And I remembered the person who wrote me 10 page letters when I first went away to college.
And I remembered the person who gave me foot massages and tickled me.
And I remembered the person who held me and wiped my tears when my grandmother died.
And I remembered the person who encouraged me to write, told me I had a gift.
And I remembered the person who sat on the floor and played toys with my godson.
And I remembered the person who used to walk to the payphone to call me every night when we were in high school because he didn’t have a landline home phone to use (and cell phones were only for the very wealthy back then).
And I remembered the person who kissed my stomach and said he didn’t care if it was “broken” (due to my infertility).
I remembered all the good things, even though it hadn’t been like that for a long time, and it was likely it never would be again.
And I remembered the imperfect things that I had also done in our relationship. My own infidelity in our youth and times that I had picked fights or not been supportive. And felt guilty.
I couldn’t give up on what I wanted it to be. So although I would temporarily leave, I always returned, which is why I say that I stayed.
I don’t blame myself for what he did to me. He came from an abusive background himself, and had a lot of baggage. He made contact with me in recent years and profusely apologized for what he put me through. And he made it clear that he now renounces such behavior and realizes it isn’t the way to be. He isn’t a safe person to have in my life, but I am grateful that he has found himself and now strives to be a better person. People change. But regardless of what led him to treat me the way that he did, he, not I, is responsible for the choices he made. It was not my fault. I did not deserve it.
But…I am responsible for the choices that I made too. For hoping against hope for flowers and butterflies and unicorns and a “Happily Ever After” when circumstances and my own ability to put patterns together should have indicated that the likelihood of such an outcome was slim to none. I so desperately wanted it to be the case that once I should have been aware, should have been “woke,” I ignored the glaring, flashing, neon signs. Because I guess I didn’t want to see them. Didn’t want that to be the case.
And, if I am truthful, because I didn’t trust myself enough nor value myself enough to walk when things first took a turn for the worse.
I’m not that girl anymore. I still might struggle to trust my own judgment; I still second-guess myself. Perhaps I always will. Maybe all people like me, who are highly self-critical, do that. But while I might not have fully developed a sense of trust in myself, I know that I have value, even if I don’t always see it. Even if I don’t always feel it. Even if everything thing else seems to indicate otherwise; even if the evidence and societal opinion suggest otherwise; even if I can’t prove it. I can’t give you any concrete reason why it is the case, but just as much as I know God is real to me though I cannot give you tangible, concrete verification of His existence, somewhere deep down I have come to realize, to believe that I matter. I have value. I am somebody. I might not have always known or believed that, but I do now.
And because I know that, I shouldn’t need to be in the midst of something before I realize I need to get the freak out. Whatever “it” is, even a Facebook group. The warning signs should be enough. I should know. Because experience. Because intuition. Because patterns.
There’s been a joke in the black community about black people and running that’s been around since forever. This meme captures it well:
(Image is a meme made of a picture of several black people running. The text states: “Black people. When we run, we run! We don’t ask no questions “why” we running; we just run.”)
Sometimes you don’t need all the doggone answers. Run and stay alive first. Get the details later on. The key is survival. Everything else is secondary.
I should do the same. I should “run” for my own life instead of running toward my downfall. I should put myself first; should value myself above “the cause.” Above a desire for “community.” Above wanting sisterhood/camaraderie/connection; above wanting to believe that people, and feminism, and so-called SJWs, and supposed “woke” people and self-declared “allies” are real.
After all, I grew up knowing Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy weren’t real. I never believed in them – wasn’t raised to do so. And knowing that truth didn’t destroy my childhood. It didn’t damage me. I was aaiight. The truth wasn’t too much for me then. So it shouldn’t be now.
And the truth is…all “allies” don’t respect you. Don’t value you. All “allies” aren’t allies.
In this case, the signs – which I wrote off as “growing pains” – were indicative that the gilded facade of white feminism was not all it appeared to be. I shouldn’t have continued to subject myself to it to determine it was dangerous and unhealthy; the “red flags” should have been enough implication for me to depart for my own self-care and protection. I don’t need to be burned to know fire is hot and dangerous; I don’t need to experience drowning or suffocation to work to avoid those risks. Similarly, I should have peeped the problems with white feminism – and I should have stayed the heck out of dodge. I should NOT have put myself in the line of fire chasing a pipe dream – a pipe dream where I don’t, and have never, belonged. I should have known better.
I’ve had quite enough heartache in 2016, thank you very much. I’m done with white feminists and white feminism – as a movement, I mean. I love my friends who are doing their part and I will support them in their quest to revamp it and make it more inclusive, but I will not be directly involved myself, and I will only offer support peripherally, from afar.
I’m out. I can’t do it any more. I’m not joining in with white feminist-led, white feminist-planned, white feminist-dominated stuff anymore, and that includes the march in January. I ain’t going.
^(Post edited on December 11th to add this: I have been given some updates on the Womens March which leads me to believe that though white feminism itself has a lot of unresolved issues, this march does not, at least anymore, seem to fit in the category of white feminism. It’s mantra is “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and its leadership team is now primarily comprised of women of color, many of which are established activists. The march seems to be intentionally intersectional. I do not think it is fair nor accurate for me to lump it in with the problems I’ve seen with members of the Pantsuit Nation national group as the march is its own entity even though it emerged out of that group. You can read more about that here or at womensmarch.com – and you can check out the mission and the bios of their diverse team of leaders if you go through the site.)
If/when white feminism ever gets it together, cool. Holla at ya girl then. Until then, #ByeFelicia; I ain’t got time nor spoons. I have a war to fight, and I’m only going to join in with people who accept me. They are out there.
(Sorry for the profanity, but it’s a good message nonetheless. Photo credit: Flavia D)
Maya (Angelou) said it best. I need to keep her sage advice in mind:
(Image of a meme with a picture of the late Maya Angelou in mid laugh along with a quote from her that states: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou Photo credit: Celeb Quote dot com)
***After sharing my blog post on social media, a few people shared some links with me about this topic that I think are great reads. Here are some of them: